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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Kos & Wyn | Food & Wine > Rubrieke | Columns > Paul Murray: Murray's Food Trails

The Planet Restaurant


Paul Murray - 2011-06-14

Untitled Document

The Planet Bar
The Mount Nelson Hotel
Gardens
Cape Town
www.mountnelson.co.za

For more details please contact:
Tel: +27 (0)21 483 1000
E-mail: restaurantreservations@mountnelson.co.za or book online.

There has been talk about the Mount Nelson’s newly furbished restaurant, the Planet Restaurant. Trendy dining places in Cape Town are not scarce. But this one is very trendy. It’s in another league. Many will already know its “little brother”, the trendy Planet Bar. Now there is the Planet Restaurant and it certainly deserves a visit, even if just to see how the planet theme is reflected in the decor. For starters, the star-studded ceiling is a knock-out. But ultimately the hero is the dining experience, which is elegant and fine in every possible way.

The restaurant's ceiling – starts nestle under the classical dome

Visiting the “Nellie” begins with entering Cape Town’s most renowned gateway. The Prince of Wales Entrance to the Mount Nelson was especially erected for the 1925 planned state visit of the Prince of Wales to Cape Town. History recalls Edward VIII’s visit. More prominently, however, history records the life of a king who later gave up the crown to his brother, George VI, who also stayed at the Mount Nelson, with his family, on his visit in 1947. Legend has it that at the time of the visit the Queen Mother admitted to “letting off a little noise” when an acorn dropped on her head as the royal procession was making its way up Government Avenue, merely a stone’s throw away from the Mount Nelson’s entrance.

The Prince of Wales Entrance to the Mount Nelson – a classic landmark of the city. The entrance got its name from the 1925 planned state visit of the Prince of Wales to Cape Town. The gateway was constructed especially for the occasion.

Coming to the Mount Nelson to dine at The Planet Restaurant brings with it a host of experiences. First of all you can drive your car right up to the doors of the foyer; the valet parks it for you; you enter and the courteous staff directs diners along the majestic corridors of this palatial edifice, to the Planet Restaurant.

Drive in and stop at the door and the valet will park your car

The history of the Mount Nelson Hotel is steeped in innovation. The original proprietors were adamant to construct something new – to equal the best in the world. And so the farm owned by a former Governor of the Cape, Van Rheede Van Oudtshoorn, was purchased and in 1899 the hotel had its stately beginnings.

During the Boer War in 1899-1902 Kitchener, Buller and Roberts stayed here, as did a young British war correspondent, Winston Spencer Leonard Churchill.

The pink colour of the hotel reflects innovation and the renewed spirit of the hotel after two bitter wars in which South Africans fought and died. Originally the colour combination was pale yellow and green; then later a mix of ochre and oxblood red … and then pink, the current colour scheme.

Elegant dining is a tradition at the Mount Nelson.

Several different menus are available in The Planet Restaurant. See www.mountnelson.co.za.

The Journey menu is for two – either a six-course meal at R300 per person or four courses at R220, all with wines (optional – served by the glass) paired by sommelier Carl Habel. (See www.mountnelson.co.za)
Then there is a special a la carte menu and a special menu for vegans.

The soup starter: creamed celeriac soup with herbed cheese and garlic croutons was a suitable way to start the evening, paired with a glass of Nicolas van der Merwe 2008. See www.winemag.co.za for rating.

Wine is especially paired by the sommelier.

Slow-roasted kingklip, curried onion sauce, served with Terra Del Capo Sangiovese 2008.

C Louis Leipoldt had interesting things to say about kingklip. In his opinion, while the fish is firm-fleshed it is not particularly delicate in flavour. According to him it is “capable of improvement with appropriate treatment and spices and herbs”. The master chefs at The Planet Bar certainly “know their onions” when it comes to preparing kingklip.

Kingklip. Scientific name: Genypterus capensis.
Other/common names: in New Zealand and Australia its
counterparts are known as Ling or Cusk Eel.

The following is from the website (as is the picture above): www.ij.co.za

The kingklip is part of the Ophidiinae fish family, which includes some of the best quality table fishes. Similar to other white fish (such as hake and kabeljou), kingklip is low in fat. It's also one of the most sought-after fish species because of its superior taste, delicate flavour and firm white flesh. Kingklip is best suited for frying, baking, poaching and grilling.


End with the most decadent of all deserts: chocolate soufflé

This is what Gordon Ramsay has to say about chocolate soufflé: “A soufflé is a very sexy pudding. It has to be light, not taste too eggy, be crisp on top and slightly moist in the centre and for any good soufflé, the only way is up.” (From www.bbcgoodfood.com)

Glass composition by South African artist the late Shirley Cloete – a pair of glass sculptures for the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town. This work was one of 100 pieces out of 2 500 international entries recognised by the Corning Museum of Glass in New York for their New Glass Review 27 in 2005. For Shirley’s obituary go to www.shirleycloeteglass.com.

But the diner’s experience and stay in the realm will soon end – followed by the return to planet earth. As he or she leaves the restaurant the diner will not help but see two gigantic glass balloon arrangements – set in glass – the work of one of South Africa’s foremost glass blowers, Shirley Cloete. An extract from her obituary reflect the fons et origo of her inspiration:

“Over the years she practised and perfected her craft, often inspired by the light and colour of the underwater scenes she enjoyed while diving off the Danger Point coast, where she had a seaside cottage.”

The Planet Restaurant

Experiences come full circle at The Planet Restaurant – a constellation of tastes … and images of sea and sky.

It’s a case of: “Out with the old in with the new!”